All at sea in the boxing ring : The Tribune India

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All at sea in the boxing ring

All at sea in  the boxing ring

Photo for representation. File photo



Shamsher Chandel

BACK in the early 1990s, our college boxing team went for an inter-college tournament to Sundernagar in Himachal Pradesh. It was like stepping into the lion’s den, with the hosts representing the state in the nationals. The stakes were clear during those years: gold in all weight categories went to the Sundernagar pugilists, while students of other colleges fought for the silver and bronze.

Once, a student union leader from a college in Shimla accompanied the team. A street fighter, he was tall, stout and weighed more than 95 kg. His trusted acolytes and a fellow student union leader convinced him to participate in the open weight category, where he would have to fight only one boxer, and even if he lost, he would win the silver. That a medal would help him earn a sports quota slot for admission to the university in the coming year was an added advantage. ‘You just need to shuffle your feet a bit, and if at any point you want the bout to stop, wave at me, I will have a towel ready,’ said his friend, who prompted him to enter the ring.

Assured of a silver medal, the contestant was armed not only with the basics of boxing borrowed from teammates but also with the swagger earned from countless street fights back home.

As he prepared to step into the ring, he turned to the aforementioned friend: ‘Bhai, keep that towel ready, just in case I feel the heat.’ Little did he know that in the boxing ring there’s no impromptu timeout.

The bout began, and within a few seconds, our man was pushed to the ropes as the national-level boxer rained punches on him left, right and centre. Out of sheer panic and oblivious of the rules of the ring, he raised his hand, not in surrender but in a desperate plea for a towel, but punches kept landing on his face till he found himself sprawled on the canvas, his nose bleeding profusely. The bout was halted.

A few moments later, with a swollen and blue face, he shot a glare at his ‘well-meaning’ accomplice who misguided him into entering the ring. The only solace was the silver medal around his neck. Back in Shimla, friends monikered him ‘Tyson bhai’, and there were whispers in college corridors that his face bore the imprint of the map of America. To dodge the curious stares, he grew a beard, wore sunglasses and a cap and sauntered down the Mall incognito, with fewer-than-before chamchas in tow.


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